The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force Releases Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions and Employers on Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being of Students of Color

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For Immediate Release: 
September 15, 2020
Courtney Holsworth,, (989) 572-8162

The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force Releases Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions and Employers on Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being of Students of Color 

Experts provide recommendations on how to mitigate mental health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, and racial upheaval 

Washington, D.C.—The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force released recommendations today to help institutions of higher education and employers mitigate the mental health risks for young people of color caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, and ongoing social movement against racism. These multiple converging crises are creating new problems for students of color and those entering the workforce, including abrupt campus closures, continuing uncertainty around the fall semester, loss of internships and job opportunities, and adjusting to remote learning and remote work. Those whose campuses remain closed must navigate the loss of in-person contact with faculty, staff, and peers, and on-campus housing, food, support services, and social communities. Even in the best of circumstances, the transition from college to the workforce is fraught, but young employees of color are facing additional stressors this year, including racial trauma stemming from seeing or experiencing violence against Black and Brown communities. 

Despite the universal nature of these disruptions to students’ lives, students of color, who comprise approximately 45% of college undergraduates, are bearing the weight of these challenges most acutely. Between COVID-19’s disproportionate impacts – physically, economically, and mentally – and the impact of systemic racism, young people of color are grappling with unprecedented health challenges. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, students of color faced unique mental health concerns: they are more likely than their white peers to report feeling overwhelmed during their first year of college and yet they are half as likely to seek help from a mental health professional.

“The mental health challenges facing young people of color are imposing in size, scope, and gravity, and seriously threaten their ability to safely transition to healthy and productive adulthood,” said Sandra E. Timmons, Interim Executive Director of the Steve Fund. “However, these unfortunate circumstances present a unique opportunity for visionary leaders to disrupt existing patterns and accelerate innovation to promote the mental health of young people of color–an indispensable key to their overall success. Providing more robust and effective supports ultimately requires collaboration among multiple stakeholders, including higher education, employers, philanthropy, nonprofits, healthcare, and others. The recommendations we’re releasing today focus on the roles of higher education and employers–both extremely well-positioned for direct and immediate positive results in determining students’ life trajectories.” 

This is the first time leaders from across sectors have come together to consider the mental health concerns of young people of color, a population that is the driving force of our nation’s future economic and social well-being. The Task Force included students; diverse mental health experts; senior executives from corporations, colleges and universities, as well as representatives from the philanthropic, nonprofit, and policy sectors. These leaders offer five recommendations on what institutions of higher education can do to promote the mental health and wellness of students of color: 

  1. Build Trust Through Racial Trauma-Informed Leadership by prioritizing listening, demonstrating empathy towards injustices and inequalities experienced by students of color, and creating and adapting resources that respond to their mental health needs.
  2. Take a Collaborative Approach to Promote Mental Health for Students of Color by having offices such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Student Affairs partner with the counseling center to enhance capacity; provide customized outreach to students of color; and bolster equity, inclusion, and belonging.
  3. Engage Faculty & Staff to Support Student Mental Health for Students of Color by incorporating practices to promote inclusion and belonging in both virtual and in-person classrooms and and across the campus, and equipping faculty and staff with the skills to identify signs of mental distress.
  4. Treat Student Mental Health as a Priority Area for Investment that must be strengthened for students of color even in these times of great financial strain on higher education so that high-quality virtual and in-person mental health services are easily accessible to these students. 
  5. Leverage Community and External Stakeholders to Promote Emotional Well-Being of Students of Color by partnering with local communities, non-profits, employers and faith based entities to generate creative strategies and augment resources.

The Task Force recommends that: 

  1. Focus on the Student Transition From Higher Education to the Workplace by convening conversations between higher education and workforce leaders to ideate programming and solutions; developing strategies to smooth the transfer of mental health supports, knowledge, and resources from college to work settings; and invest in employees’ development of social capital through internships and mentorships.
  2. Help Young Employees of Color Navigate the Workplace by integrating mental health and emotional well-being into all aspects of workplace operations; retaining diverse, culturally competent mental health experts to equip leaders and managers to serve as mentors and allies; and paying special attention to workplace challenges commonly affecting employees of color.
  3. Conduct a Workplace Culture and Practices Assessment with a 2020 Lens by carefully assessing whether the values employers espoused in the workplace are the same ones experienced by all employees, and specifically new employees of color.
  4. Promote Understanding of Racial Trauma, Mental Health, and Well-Being in the Workplace by recognizing the traumatic impact that violence against Black and Brown communities has on employees of color, and providing mental health and peer support resources that are accessible to these employees.
  5. Develop Allies, Advocacy, and Mobility by leveraging mental health experts and insights to support employees of color at early career stages.

To read the full set of recommendations from The Steve Fund Crisis Response Task Force Report, please visit:

For interviews with The Steve Fund, experts from the Task Force, or students of color please contact Courtney Holsworth at or (989) 572-8162. 


The Steve Fund is the nation’s leading organization focused on supporting the mental, social, and emotional health and well-being of young people of color. 

Watch Video Replay—Transitioning to College (Live Streamed, 9.18)

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9/18: Live Streamed Event: Transitioning to College

Mental Health and Wellness for Students of Color: Transitioning to College 
Presented in partnership with The Steve Fund and jointly with HuffPost
Noon-1pm ET » Watch Video Replay Below

Amid the bustle on U.S. college campuses, a growing incidence of mental health issues is causing concern. College students of color are reporting depression and anxiety coupled with, among some groups, an increased risk for suicide. Many also report feeling more isolated and more overwhelmed than their white classmates, according to surveys conducted by Harris Poll, yet are less likely to seek counseling services on campus.

Watch video replay: 


The Steve Fund Supports CBC Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health

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On the eve of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) launched an Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health to bring attention to the rising suicide rate among black children, “and to identify legislative recommendations to address this mental health crisis.” (Source: The Root)

Dr. Annelle Primm, Senior Medical Advisor, will represent the Steve Fund on a working group of experts and stakeholders to support this new task force.

The purpose of the group is to shed light on the mental health of black youth and related racial disparities. Ultimately, the group will contribute to the development of a report by the end of 2019 that will identify actionable steps and solutions for the community and for Congress, including potential legislative recommendations.

Given the Steve Fund’s focus on the mental health and well-being of students and young people of color, participation in the working group is an ideal opportunity for the Fund to contribute to national progress in addressing the needs of this demographic group.


According to a 2008 JAMA Pediatrics article on Black Boys and Suicide, suicide rates in the United States have traditionally been higher among white than black individuals across all age groups. However, in the last 25 years, suicide rates have increased among black children aged 5 to 11 years and decreased among white children of the same age.

“We can no longer stand aside and watch as the youth in our community continue to struggle with depression, traumatic stress, or anxiety. Far too often the pain that African Americans experience is either overlooked or dismissed,” Rep. Karen Bass, CBC Chair, said during the panel. “That has to end today.”

— Read more: The Root

CBC Press Release

Conference Highlights & Video Recap: Young, Gifted & Well at Harvard University

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The Steve Fund and Harvard University led participants in a day-long convening (4/16/19) with leading researchers, practitioners, administrators, faculty and students who came together to understand the mental and emotional health experiences of young people of color within Harvard University.  Follow the discussion online using #YoungGiftedWell2019 and #SteveFundHarvard.

We need to change some things institutionally, and in the name of Steve, we are going to do it.


Get Engaged & Follow the Discussion Online: #YoungGiftedWell2019 and #SteveFundHarvard

New Resource! The Equity in Mental Health Framework Toolkit

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The Steve Fund, a nonprofit created to address the mental health needs of young people of color, and The Jed Foundation (JED), a nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults are pleased to announce the availability of a new resource that supports students of color— Equity in Mental Health Framework Toolkit.

The new Toolkit provides additional support in applying the recommendations in the EMH Framework that was launched just over a year ago. It includes implementation strategies to support campus-based efforts to reduce shame and prejudice around mental illness, increase responsiveness, improve campus climate, and provide system-wide opportunities to help all students thrive.

Additional support for these activities can be provided by JED and The Steve Fund.

We encourage your participation in this effort to reach and support students of color, and to help ensure that everyone has access to mental health resources. We hope the EMH Framework and Toolkit will help guide you in this important work.

Click here to download. 

3 Tips to Overcome Anxiety & Spring Forward

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Be brave.
—Lao Tzu
Beginning a new venture—whether it’s heading back to school or beginning a new career—often comes with mixed emotions. You might feel excited—and ready—to begin anew and to make new connections; while you might also feel anxious about encountering new and unfamiliar challenges. No matter what’s on your mind, you deserve a clean slate as you embark on change. It’s common for people to experience fears and anxieties, negative feelings and emotions, and to feel overwhelmed and stressed, but don’t fret, you can tackle these feelings head on. Here are three tips to help:
  • Take action. Stressful situations affect all of us from time to time, yet these challenges do not need to hold us back. Choose to start your new endeavor by bravely taking action and confronting stressors directly as they arise.

  • Find your unique strengths. Being conscious of who you are, being true to yourself, and acknowledging your assets and abilities takes a lot of the uncertainty out of life. Harness your own personal power to wrestle with whatever stressors are getting in the way of your progress.

  • Give yourself a thumbs-up daily. Deliberately choose to be brave in confronting challenges every day. Give yourself a mental thumbs-up every time you do!

And don’t forget, there are supports out there, ready to help you—the Steve Fund is one of them—if any of the challenges you are confronting seem too big to face alone.

We wish you a happy Spring 2019, and encourage you to get excited about setting some goals that matter to you. And don’t be surprised if you exceed your own expectations throughout the year!

Be well,

Anuja Khemka
Executive Director

Self-Care Blog Series: A version of this blog post originally appeared in our January 2019 newsletter edition. 

Our Mission: Promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color